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Janita - Interview

  by Lisa Torem

published: 29 / 10 / 2012

Janita - Interview


Lisa Torem speaks to Finland-born singer-songwriter Janita about why signing to Blake Morgan's American ECR label has given her career a new focus and energy

When we met at New York producer Blake Morgan’s label launch, she was wearing a classic tuxedo. The soft-spoken, statuesque singer Janita bravely relocated to Brooklyn after enjoying a successful career as a teen pop star in her native Finland. She sounded excited about her upcoming eighth album, although she has already enjoyed acclaim for 'Haunted', which she co-produced with Tomi Sachary, a long time collaborator. On that recording she exposed her listeners to forceful and delicate, life-altering yearnings via the intriguing ‘Hopelessly Hopeful’ and ‘House on Fragile Terrain.’ Texturally Janita made full use of contemporary production techniques, although her sound throughout remained completely classic. Janita’s inspirations include PJ Harvey and Tom Waits, and, like those artists, she has not only stretched the envelope but engraved it with her unique signature. The ambitious singer-songwriter, who immediately got snatched up by Sony and whose songs careened up the American Top-40 at such a young age, set her sights even higher so that she could remain true to her artistic vision. She has gone on to become a major artist at the ECR label, and besides continuing her studio projects she performs frequently at NY’s intimate listening rooms. PB: Janita, can you detail your label experience? J: I've been in the music industry ever since I was 13 years old, and have been signed to labels such as Sony 550 in the US, JVC Victor and EMI in Japan and Warner in Finland, among others. Truth be told, I have a long history with record labels, and my experience with ECR Music Group is easily the best one I've had so far. PB: How have you seen yourself grow as an artist since being signed by ECR? J: I feel like I've grown exponentially as an artist during the time that I've been working with Blake Morgan and ECR. Due to the fact that I've been encouraged to do as much as I can independently, I've learned to play guitar within the last two years, I've refreshed my skills in piano and I've also written a full album all on my own. In the past I was encouraged to let others guide me and to collaborate with others on songwriting, and rely on others in arranging and production. For the first time, I am creating my own vision for my upcoming album and for me it's a life-changer. There's a Chinese proverb: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." I feel like what Blake Morgan has taught me in these almost three years that we've been working together is just that: skills that I'll have for a lifetime as an artist. It's invaluable. PB: What is the most important quality a performer should have? J: For me, it's the freedom to be myself when I'm on stage. Trusting that who I am is enough and that all I have to do is give it all I got, nothing more, nothing less. If there's fear in the back of my mind of what anyone else is thinking, I won't be able to reach my full potential, as I will be trying too hard and thus will inevitably fall short of my own skills. It's a paradox. There are many different kinds of performers, but I do believe that all the really good ones are being true to themselves, whatever it is that they're doing. It's different for each of us, and that's the beauty of it. PB: What was your overall background in the industry before you worked with ECR and what motivated you to sign up with the label? J: This is it in a nutshell: I started my career in Finland (where I'm from), making my first album when I was thirteen, and overnight I became a celebrity, a "pop-princess" of sorts. A couple of years later I moved to NY to pursue an international career and soon landed a contract with Sony making an urban R&B-record for them, which due to record label in-fighting never came out in the US. I made two jazzy soul-albums in my twenties called 'I'll Be Fine' and 'Seasons of Life', which were successful in the smooth jazz-arena. But by the time I met Blake Morgan, I was pretty fed up with the music industry. Having started so young, I had gotten into a pattern of being molded by the music industry instead of my own vision, and I had very little hope left of being allowed to truly express myself as an artist. Meeting Blake I sensed something different: a lack of confusion and haze I had gotten so used to with other industry people. Thus, I followed my gut feeling when I got signed to ECR, and it served me well. Together, we released my album 'Haunted' in 2010 and are getting ready to release a new album in 2013. PB: How would you describe your working relationships with your colleagues at the label? J: Clearly, the most important relationship within the label is the one I have with Blake. I cannot speak more highly of him: in terms of integrity, honesty and shit-togetherness – I’ve never met anyone on the same level. I also have a very special bond with other label mates like Melissa Giges and David Cloyd. We’re very supportive of each other and also work to help each other out via our different areas of expertise, (e.g. me with fashion and visuals, Melissa with event-planning and David with web-design.) All of our relationships are growing and strengthening as we find more ways to collaborate and it's unlike any other relationships I've had with fellow artists before. I also have a warm friendship with James McCartney, who is becoming more and more a part of the ECR-family. PB: How would you describe your style of music? Is creating a follow up more challenging than making a debut? J: I describe my style as alternative soul. Prior to me, I don't know that the genre has actually existed... In some ways, although my next album is to be my eighth album, it feels like my debut. This is because for the very first time I've written all the songs myself and am creating the full artistic vision in terms of musical direction and production. One might think this would be harder, but I have a trusting and warm feeling about the whole project in a way that I've never had before with my earlier projects. It helps to be working with Blake Morgan, a person I trust, in realizing that vision. PB: Thank you.

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Janita - Interview

Janita - Interview

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